Saturday, 26 July 2014

Audiobook Reviews: The Importance of Being Earnest and A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, narrated by James Marsters, Charles Busch, Emily Bergl, Neil Dickson, Jill Gascoine, Christopher Neame and Matthew Wolf.
Although I've seen the movie, I'd never read - or listened to - the original play, so I was excited when I came across this audiobook performance on Audible. It didn't disappoint. I loved the story of mistaken identities, long-lost family and rich people's shenanigans, and the characters were all charming and endearing in their own way. The language is obviously gorgeous and witty, and it was brilliantly delivered by the actors in this edition. It all flowed really well and was just a delight to listen to.
Rating: 4/5

A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde, narrated by Miriam Margolyes, Samantha Mathis, Rosalind Ayres, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson and Martin Jarvis. 
After really enjoying The Importance of Being Earnest I was keen to give this audio a try, and while it was good, it wasn't great. It too has long-lost family, mistaken identities and rich people's shenanigans, but it just wasn't as fun. The characters weren't as compelling, and the story wasn't as engaging. The performances weren't as great here either, they FELT like performances rather than like you were listening to actual conversations between the characters. I was also surprised that several of the lines were exactly the same as those found in Earnest - of course, this came earlier and so Wilde must have reused them for Earnest, and they ARE great lines, but I didn't like the repeated use. I wouldn't listen to or read this again.
Rating: 3/5

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Audiobook Reviews: The Too Far Series by Abbi Glines

Do you ever read the first book in a series and not particularly like it, but you keep reading the series anyway? And then you read the second and you still don't really enjoy it, but for some reason that you can't quite explain you keep going? Until you reach the third in the series, or worse even the fourth? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah so that's what happened with the Too Far series for me. I picked up the first one, Fallen Too Far, when it was for sale on Audible. The sample sounded OK and I had a vague impression that Abbi Glines is an author I'd enjoy. People I follow seemed to like her. So I listened and look, it was entertaining. The narrator was quite good and the story itself was a bit of trashy fun. It's about Blaire, an innocent girl (coz there's no other kinds of girls in romance apparently) who goes to stay with her new step-brother after her mother passes away. You can see where this is going, right? There were parts that annoyed the crap out of me (hello, insta-love, characters not acting their age, guys acting possessive, ridiculous melodrama, etc), but I can admit I still enjoyed the book overall. The chemistry between the two main characters was pretty sizzling and the sex scenes were hot. With the exception of one which was distractingly annoying but also significant to the plot which in turn made me want to bang my head against the wall...

So yeah. The first book was fun enough but also annoying and I knew the series would probably get more annoying as it went on. But maybe a small part of me hoped it would get better, I don't know, because I continued anyway. Next I went with Rush Too Far which is Fallen Too Far told from the perspective of the love interest, Rush. It is testimony to how hot the chemistry is that I endured the exact same story, with the exact same dialogue and only a few new scenes, all over again. Rush annoyed me more here than he did in Fallen Too Far, what with being in his head the whole time. He showed the first signs of hardcore possessiveness, and I should have known it would only get worse.

Boy, did it get worse. Never Too Far and Forever Too Far, the second and third books in the series (technically Rush Too Far is the fourth I think), alternate between Rush's and Blaire's points of view. Blaire is annoying as hell and does some really really silly things, but Rush was just unbearable. He is so freaking possessive and controlling, handling Blaire like a doll, obsessing over what she eats, what she wears, who she talks to... and Blaire is all "lol aw so cute and caring". HONEY NO. This is some fucked up shit right here. And ugh, all the family drama was so tedious, and the way each character handled said drama was ridiculous and unrealistic and plain stupid.

All that being said I was still tempted to continue the series because the focus shifts to other characters and I'm nothing if not optimistic/a masochist apparently. But after reading reviews and seeing the other guys in the following books are even MORE possessive than Rush I just couldn't do that to myself.

I am now pretty baffled by the popularity of Abbi Glines. A few hot scenes does not make up for all the idiocy and awfulness that surrounds them. And there is so, so much. Blergh.


Fallen Too Far: 3/5
Rush Too Far: 2.5/5
Never Too Far: 2/5
Forever Too Far: 1.5/5

Mini Reviews: Snow, Life Was Easier When Boys Were Stupid And Boys And Toys

Snow by Maxence Fermine, translated by Chris Mulhern
This is a gorgeous book both inside and out. The cover is simply stunning and the writing itself is elegant and lyrical. It's about a man who is obsessed with poetry and snow, and the prose really embodies both of these themes. It is bright, stark, and sparkling. The whole thing has a whimsical, fable-like quality. It's a short, beautiful read, however I didn't really connect to it emotionally. It's a pleasure for the eyeballs but doesn't really reach a deeper level.
Rating: 3.5/5
Life Was Easier When Boys Were Stupid by Sarah Billington
I knew this was a short story but I didn't realise just how short until I finished it in under 10 minutes. It is the kind of story that belongs in a bigger anthology, I'm not sure how I managed to get it on its lonesome. It's been on my kindle for so long I thought I'd finally get to it. It was OK, but seriously it's one scene - a girl thinking about kissing this hot guy but he seems jerky so she walks out and sees this nerdy guy and THAT'S IT. The writing was fine but I didn't get anything from reading this. I mean I know it's only a short story but short stories should still make you feel something. Anything. Not nothing.
Rating: 2/5
Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood (via Netgalley)
Liv's super conservative parents can't find out she sells sex toys for a living. So things get super awkward when a colleague of her dad's requests a private show. Cue sexy times, awkward times, sexy times, really awkward times, kinda romantic times, drama times, sexy times and happy times. This wasn't terrible but it wasn't particularly good either. The emotional and family issues were probably the best part, the main relationship didn't really grab me and the sex scenes weren't all that sexy. The whole "private party" thing was just a bit ooky to be honest. Overall this left me feeling "meh".
Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Top Ten Fave TV Shows I'm Watching Right Now

1. Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany plays a group of clones trying to find out where they come from - and who is murdering them. She is amazeballs and this show is amazeballs.

2. True Detective. The first season was amazing. I am so excited for the new season I just hope the cast is a bit more diverse.

3. Game of Thrones. Because duh.

4. The Mindy Project. I love Mindy, I love Danny, I love everyone and everything on this show.

5. Catfish. I just binge-watched all three seasons. It was great.

6. Teen Wolf. It has romance, horror, comedy, drama, hot guys, hot girls... in other words, everything.

7. The Vampire Diaries. It has its ups and downs but it's always a lot of fun.

8. American Horror Story. Every season is a different story so it can be a bit hit and miss but I really enjoyed Coven and am looking forward to Freak Show

9. Adventure Time. It's silly and weird and it makes me so happy.

10. Once Upon a Time. Sometimes it's amazing and sometimes it's pretty terrible but I always love it.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: Amy & Matthew - A Love Story by Cammie McGovern

I was immediately drawn to the bright, textured cover of this book in the bookstore, and when I read that it was about a boy with OCD and a girl with cerebral palsy falling in love I knew I had to buy it. These are not the kind of characters you often see in YA, and I was curious about how they would be handled. Having anxiety myself, I was especially interested in seeing how Matthew's condition was explored.

I have to say initially it made me really anxious. Matthew's worries are not my worries, and yet they did spike my anxiety a bit. It's probably impossible not to feel a little anxious if you're putting yourself in the shoes of such an anxious character. Once I got more lost in the story I stopped worrying so much and started appreciating the way Matthew's OCD had been written. It was really well done, very realistic without being completely over the top. There were lots of little things that people with no experience with such a condition probably wouldn't even notice, but for me it was incredibly validating.

As far as Amy is concerned, I don't know a great deal about cerebral palsy, so I couldn't judge how accurate the depiction of her situation was, but it certainly seemed authentic. More than anything, you really get the sense of how frustrated Amy is, and how incredibly isolated and lonely she can be at times. Through both her and Matthew's points of view, the novel explores the notion of control - or lack thereof - over your own body and actions and how that impacts your emotions. Both of these characters are trapped in their bodies in very different ways, and as they connect with each other their own worlds begin to expand and it's quite wonderful to follow.

But this book is about so much more than disabilities. Indeed, as Amy and Matthew strive to be seen as something other than disabled or disordered, they become some of the most complex and fully realised characters I've read in YA in a long time. They do amazing things but importantly they also screw up really really badly. They love each other, but they also hurt each other. It can be frustrating to read but it's also an important part of their growth, and part of what's make them great as characters. They're not martyrs or symbols, they're people. People make mistakes. And sometimes you love them all the more for it.

The secondary characters are also incredibly well developed in this book, and I especially loved the changing relationships Amy has with her peer helpers (of which Matthew is one), and Matthew has with his new co-workers at the local cinema. Their families also play important parts, and while it's hard not to hate them at times, you also sympathise with them.

The dual third person narration is really effective in telling both Amy and Matthew's individual and interconnected stories; it's great to be able to see how they see themselves and then how they're seen by others. Ultimately the book is about finding yourself and growing into the person you want to be,  as well as the important relationships you forge along the way. Beginning in the last year of high school and going through to the first year post-high school for Amy and Matthew, it is a true coming of age story - unique, emotional, messy and beautiful.

Rating: 4/5

I was inpsired by Mands to have a go at matching nails with this fun cover, so here's my crappy picture of that!

Fine Print
Published: MacMillan Children's Books, March 2014
Get It: Book Depository

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mini Reviews: Take Me On, Flirty Dancing And The Kissing Season

Take Me On by Katie McGarry (via Netgalley)
I was pretty excited to read this one because I've enjoyed McGarry's Pushing the Limits series so far. It's not amazing but it's entertaining, and this book pretty much followed suit. Although I have to say it's probably my least favourite in the series. I don't know if I just wasn't in the right mood, but while I liked it I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I didn't particularly connect with any of the characters and I didn't find the romance very swoon-worthy. It did have some cute moments but I just wasn't rooting for these guys as much as I have for other characters and couples in the series. I am not really into fighting sports or stories based around them, so that didn't help as that's the main focus of this book. But if you're a fan of McGarry I'm sure you'd enjoy this.
Rating: 3/5

Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan (via Netgalley)
The title and cover initially drew me to this book, and when I read the synopsis I knew I had to read it. I love dance stories with a bit of romance thrown in (hello, Dirty Dancing!), and the whole awkward girl entering a dance competition with the popular guy sounded too fun to resist. It IS very cute and fun but, unlike a lot of YA, it doesn't really transcend the age bracket to provide a satisfying read for not-so-young adults. Instead of reading a good book about teenagers, I felt like I was reading a good book FOR teenagers. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. That's what it IS. And if I was 15 I would have loved the pants off of this book. I'd definitely recommend it for actual teens, but not necessarily adult YA fans.
Rating: 3/5

The Kissing Season by Rachael Johns (via Netgalley)
I've had this book on my Kindle for so long and I finally got around to reading it. Although it's a Christmas story, it was still fun to read in the middle of the year. It's set in a small coastal town, where the children of two families have come home for the holidays. Hannah has sworn off men for the moment but Matteo really gets under her skin, and playboy Matteo meanwhile finds he can't stop thinking about her. Their early interactions were kinda ridiculous and unrealistic in my opinion, but they had some really cute and hot moments too, and I quite liked both characters. This was a fun, quick read, and definitely makes me want to try more of Johns' books.
Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Top Ten Classics I Love

1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I adore the characters. They're all so wonderful and memorable.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Because duh.

3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I love it almost as much as Pride and Prejudice. Almost.

4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Beautiful and haunting.

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I love the guts out of Jane and yes Rochester makes me swoon.

6. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Anne Shirley is one of my favourite characters of all time and her story makes me happy (except when it makes me really really sad).

7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's such a lovely story about growing up and grieving and healing.

8. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. Magical. Sad. Scary. Fun. The best.

9. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. It's a fantastic decade-spanning story of the morally grey and always compelling Forsytes.

10. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. A wonderful mystery that's just a lot of fun to read.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.